Like all businesses, freelancers are feeling the pressure to stay afloat during a global pandemic. The Ascent has five tips for freelancers during COVID-19.
Freelancers are known to be well equipped to work from home, but working remotely during a global pandemic is not business as usual.
Given this and the fact that major cutbacks in most sectors have hit the freelance industry hard, many freelancers are worried about the viability and future of their business. Already, 32% of freelancers have experienced a drop in demand for their services.
We can’t promise the next few months will be easy, but there are plenty of work hacks freelancers can implement to help them weather the COVID-19 storm. In this article, we’ll go over five tips for freelancers to help them survive the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are our top 5 tips for going freelance in times of crisis:
- Catch up on administrative tasks
- Revise your strategy
- Master your technology
- Connect with your current and past customers
- Priority to your well-being
Tip 1: Catch up on admin tasks
First things first: take this time to take care of the tasks that have accumulated over the past few weeks or months. Administrative tasks are among the major downsides of freelancing (I think we can all agree on this), but once they’re eliminated, you can focus on future-proofing your business against the effects of COVID. -19.
Here are some tasks you may need to take care of right away:
- Track unpaid invoices: It’s time to crack down on customers who haven’t paid your overdue invoices. Establish clear payment terms and set a date when late fees will be assessed (if you haven’t already).
- Log in to your accounts: Whether you use accounting software or employ someone to handle your accounting, take the time to review your accounts. Have you recorded and tracked all your expenses? Have you processed your billable hours? Are you able to file your quarterly taxes? Do you have recurring expenses for products or services that you don’t currently need?
- Save your work: A task we are all guilty of neglecting, backing up your work is an essential activity that should be undertaken regularly. Uploading all your work to the cloud ensures that you won’t lose anything if your computer system or hard drive fails.
- Start organizing your tasks effectively: Project management tools can be incredibly effective for freelancers who need to plan and organize their administrative tasks. In particular, tools that offer Kanban boards are great for visualizing a workflow and helping you organize, schedule, and set reminders for administrative tasks.
Tip 2: Revise your strategy
Depending on your industry, the demand for freelance work may have dropped significantly.
Freelancers whose work is done exclusively online may have kept their heads above water (in fact, many have seen an increase in demand as offices close and budgets shrink), while those whose jobs involve interaction with the public have almost certainly hit a brick wall.
If the latter applies to you, it’s time to start thinking about how you can change your business strategy to deal with the “new normal”. We’ve seen personal trainers flock to Zoom in hordes to lead online classes, while smaller restaurants and bars have focused their efforts on takeout and delivery service.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every freelance position right now, there’s definitely room to pivot your business strategy.
This may include loosening up your niche and supporting more mainstream work, trading online where it makes sense (and your marketing there!), or introducing a system of “coupons” through which customers can pay you for future work now and receive a discount.
Tip 3: Master your technology
As a freelancer, you likely use a variety of technology tools to help run your business, including accounting software, project management tools, and email marketing software. All of this technology can be a big chunk of your freelance business expenses.
It’s a good time to review the tools and platforms you use to run your freelance business.
Many platforms have reduced their subscription prices and released special offers in response to the crisis, so it’s worth reaching out to a sales rep to see how you could reduce your software costs. Alternatively, you can search for remote tools that offer free versions.
Think about the technology you need right now. For example, if your work has pivoted and you regularly meet with clients online, you’ll need a solid video conferencing tool that fits your budget without sacrificing desired features.
Tip 4: Check with your current and past customers
Part of freelancing is knowing how to be a good salesperson and a good prospect for sales. If you’re not comfortable with this aspect of freelancing, now is the time to hone your skills. Some of your clients may have less work to offer, others not at all.
However, even if they aren’t looking for the kind of work you usually do for them, they may still have a void to fill. With the high number of layoffs and staff currently furloughed, many industries and businesses will have new opportunities for freelancers.
Ask your current customers if their needs have changed. Along the same lines, reach out to past clients. For example, you may have worked on menu graphics for small restaurants, and with the recent major changes in the service industry thanks to the coronavirus, these are no longer in demand. However, you can offer to create graphics for their social media platforms or websites.
Create a pitch in advance that clearly states your skills (beyond what they already know), make sure your portfolio is up to date, and state your rates.
Tip 5: Prioritize your well-being
You can’t do a good job if you don’t take care of yourself. Needless to say, this period will go down in history as one of the most disruptive and damaging to people’s lives and the economy. It is therefore essential that, whatever your situation, you put your health and well-being first.
We’re more digitally connected than ever with our friends, family, and work, but it’s important to take the time to disconnect. If you can, put away your phone, laptop, and other devices for a while each day and take a walk outside.
Again, if you can, set aside time for yourself and fill that time with an activity that can help you relax and unwind.
Start prioritizing time for yourself, and you’ll be much better able to stay focused at work and in a better position to craft a work plan that works for your home life and your business.
The bottom line
Being flexible and adapting to change is a key part of being a freelancer, but there’s no denying that right now things are tougher than they’ve ever been.
However, these tips will get you started and motivate you to figure out how to pivot your freelance career to current circumstances and, of course, maximize your business.